SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Saturday expressed shock and opposition to the amendments proposed by J&K govt to the control of building operations act 1988, and J&K development act 1970, saying the proposed amendments will undermine the civil authority and turn the entire region into a military establishment.
Party spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar while expressing dismay over the proposed amendments said that at a time when voices are being raised against the poor implementation of the cantonment act and construction rules across the country, we have a headless dispensation in J&K proposing to put more chunks of land under the control of security forces at the pretext of smooth construction for requirements of armed forces in such proposed notified areas. “We have Union defence ministry issuing orders every now and then under the WODA (works of defence act) Act of 1903 to impose restrictions upon the use of land in the vicinity of works of defence establishments all over the country. As such people living around such areas undergo immense trepidation on one account or another due of the conflict between their increasing civilian needs with the security needs of forces,” he said.
The party spokesperson said as per the statement of former CM in Legislative Assembly in 2018, thousands of hectares of our land are already under the possession of Army and other security forces. “The proposed amendment will add to the pool of land under the procession of the army by cutting on the remaining arable and fertile land tracts available for agriculture activity. The strategic importance of J&K is not confined to certain areas; as such the entire region is strategically important. So by that analogy government will have a free hand to give as much land to security forces to be used by the later for any means, which the proposed amendment is totally ambiguous about. It could be anything ranging from colonies to special deployment of defence equipment. It seems the idea behind such a move is to create an army establishment in J&K,” he said.
In the years to come, many civilian chunks could overnight be converted into such proposed “strategic areas”, he said while referring to the proposed amendment as a remnant of colonial-era laws. “Such a notification can change the disposition of huge chunk of a settlement overnight; hamper their economic activities and other dynamics of day to day life. It seems that the government is on a mission of a major land grab strategy, where on one hand it has opened the flood gates for outsiders in local jobs, and on other hand, it wants to fashion a mammoth that will continue eat on the land wherever it wants on the pretext of “strategic areas,” he said.
The proposed amendment, if it comes to force will drastically hit the prospects of tourism as well, he said. “If supposing our tourist destinations are declared as strategic areas, tourism development authorities would lose the power and will inevitably cease to exist. This will put employability of thousands of people drawing sustenance from such tourist spots in peril.”
“Under president’s rule, the J&K administration has already given up 243 hectares of forest land for the army and paramilitary use, over 727 hectares of designated forest land was diverted between September 18 and October 21 by the former forest advisory committee FAC. The committee had also approved felling of 1847 trees that included 1471 in designated forest areas alone; one could well gauge the enormous destruction to our rich forest resources if the proposed amendments come into force. The amendment will circumvent the forest rules, regulation and with a stroke of pen have our natural resources obliterated that too in a fragile Himalayan ecosystem of ours. It will affect the wildlife also,” Imran said.
“The major, besides, affecting forest wealth, civilian established population and tourist destinations will push the economic activity of lakhs of tribals in jeopardy. They might end up losing access to huge chunks of Himalayan pastures to security grid as such a proposed strategic area might crop up in their Trans Himalayan migratory routes as well.”
He said the proposed amendment besides destroying a fragile ecosystem will have a direct bearing on the regions agriculture, energy and tourism sectors. “Such moves by the government speak volumes, it reveals what their priority is when COVID19 is raging. The move should not be seen in seclusion, it is a part of the long term agenda of disenfranchising the people of J&K by grabbing their fertile, and economically viable land tracts, and natural resources. It will give military establishment an upper hand in the region by undermining civilian authority,” he said.